Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Minimalism and Death Positivity

I'm kind of a Caitlin Doughty fangirl. I read her book, Smoke Gets in Your Eyes & Other Lessons from the Crematory and I was hooked. I follow her on Instagram, YouTube and I read her blog.

Doughty has worked as a mortician, funeral director and crematory operator. She has made her career in the death industry- something which I find fascinating.

One of her recent blog posts didn't quite make sense to me, though. Actually, it was guest writer  Robert Wringham contributing via Doughty's blog. Wringham writes that leading a minimalist lifestyle is strongly tied to a healthy and normal acceptance of Death. Basically, people who insist on accumulating 'stuff' and keeping it are in denial that one day they will perish and leave it all behind. Kind of like "Well, I can't die because I simply have too much stuff to sort through." It's definitely an interesting perspective, but I can't buy into it myself.

My roommate when I was in grad school (my first time) was a minimalist. We shared a two bedroom apartment, but her room didn't even contain a bed. It contained a mat on the floor, a small nightstand,  her radio and some personal possessions, but that's about it. She was a transient type, and she didn't like having to lug around a bunch of bags and boxes whenever she moved. That's cool. I respect that. It allowed me to have most of the space in the apartment for my own stuff, which I shared with her anyways. I mean what was I supposed to do, not let her use the coffee table?

Wringham writes that when a person with a lot of 'stuff' dies, their possessions inevitable end up at Goodwill or in the landfill because their families aren't going to dedicate much time or interest to lovingly sorting through an entire household. Once again, that's fine. I remember when my great-grandmother died, and my entire extended family descended upon her home to begin the gigantic task of sorting and dividing three floors and nearly nine decades of stuff. I was young so for me it wasn't really work intensive, or painful, and I saw it as a great adventure. Despite the adults in the family having so much work ahead of them so soon after a funeral, I seem to remember many people picking out cherished items to keep. It's not like every single last spoon or sewing needle or empty mason jar was lovingly tucked away for future generations, but going through that process allowed my family time to grieve, time to reminisce together, and time to learn more about my great-grandmother. And what's so terrible about that?

I understand what Wringham is advocating for, but living your life one way just to make your death easier is a little too morbid, even for me. It also makes me think of the commonly known warning sign that people who are contemplating suicide will often begin giving away their possessions. Even though I accumulate alot of 'stuff' I do frequently clean out my house, bringing bags to thrift stores or bringing stuff into school for other uses. I do that because I enjoy giving to others, but I don't think I'd enjoy doing it if I was forcing myself to think "Well I might as well give this away because I'm going to die someday anyways."

I don't expect that one day people will treasure my baking sheets or used dryer sheets or anything like that, but I do hope that a few things will be passed along and distributed among friends and family. Maybe someone would keep some of my art and journals, at least.

Don't let my genius go unknown!

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